Is Timothy Zahns stature in the Star Wars community fading?

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Emperor Sebulba, Jun 14, 2001.

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  1. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    Yeah, see people are ignorant to the fact that Zahn isn't the greatest and he didn't come up with SW. :p
  2. Jedi---Cost Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2001
    star 1
    mike s is the best corran will kick maras @$$
  3. Anakin SkySolo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    Dewlanna--

    This had caught my eye earlier, and it struck me as odd at the time. You said:

    And like Stackpole's books, Zahn's books rarely end up on the shelves at used bookstores.

    Actually, I've found Zahn's books frequently at used books stores, particularly the Thrawn Trilogy. They are perhaps the easiest Star Wars books to find used. In fact, I believe that I've seen Heir to the Empire with particular frequency.

    And I have looked. I bought my copies of the Thrawn Trilogy (as well as the JAT and CotJ) used, and I only needed to visit two or three book stores to find all seven books. I can't recall having any trouble finding Zahn's novels.

    Mind you, I don't really attach much significance to seeing TTT frequently in used book stores. The Thrawn Trilogy are probably the most published Bantam novels, and Heir to the Empire perhaps the most published Star Wars novel of all, outside of movie adaptations. HttE's availability in used books stores would seem to reflect the higher publication numbers.
  4. 1stAD Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 10, 2001
    star 5
    This one really bothers me...

    "Certainly, Timothy Zahn almost single-handedly reignited Star Wars as a phenomenon, and we can practically lay the very existence of the new film trilogy at his feet. That being said..."

    Nope. Thank CGI(or damn CGI for the bashers) in JP for that. Besides, it was only about a decade from the release of ROTJ to the initial planning stages of TPM. I think Georgie just needed a break away from Star Wars. If he had just continued with producing the prequel trilogy in 1983, we may not have seen the Indiana Jones trilogy, Young Indy, and a certain "other" projects I won't mention.

    And keep in mind the average moviegoer didn't go see TPM because of a series of novels released in the early 90's.
  5. Genghis12 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 1999
    star 6
    Well said 1stAD. That's something that nearly all of us do in fact recognize.
  6. Rogue...Jedi Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 12, 2000
    star 7
    Zahns just not as good as Stackpole
  7. ImperialGirl Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 10, 2001
    star 3
    Minor point: Zahn basically took the idea of a "city planet" from Lucas's concept and fleshed it out to what we eventually saw in TPM. The name and the details are his. The idea of a city-covered planet was Lucas's. (Given his string of one-climate planets, it was only logical. And have to wonder if Tatooine came from Dune.) Lucas had the original idea, Zahn developed it.

    I don't understand "relies on his characters too much?" What's he supposed to rely on? Oh, yeah, superweapons! *note dripping sarcasm.* One of the reason his books, and Kathy's, and Stackpole's, and Allston's, are all so enjoyable is the characters are interesting and fun to read about. Star Wars isn't about the technology, it's about people. If it weren't, ANH would have been "Buck Rogers takes on the Death Star" and nothing more. And if you mean relies on HIS (as opposed to the movies') characters, so what? How many plots can you really get out of the Big Three without adding new characters for them to react to? I like that the focus wasn't stictly on Han, Luke and Leia. We got some depth--the movies usually divided their time between Our Heros and the Villains--Zahn added one more element with the "gray area" characters. It's as if we'd gone to Cloud City before Han and Leia got there in ESB.

    This "who's best" stuff...Now, from a purely college lit/crit standpoint: Zahn, Tyers, and Hambly (!) are the best all-rounders. They have interesting characters, fairly tight plots, and flowing, challenging styles to read. Stackpole writes GREAT military S/F, somewhat at the expense of character development, but for the series he was writing that worked. Allston was obviously having fun, and while his military s/f isn't quite to the level of Stackpole's, he makes up for it with the characters and with the breezy, accessable style. (Yes, I really have had a lot of college and grad English, including a class on sci-fi and fantasy literature. Yes, that means I think WAY too hard about it.)

    I think the Zahn thing comes down to what you like that ISN'T Star Wars. If you like lite fantasy, his writing will probably not grab you. If you prefer gimmick/gadget SF/F, you will not like Zahn's work. If you like heavier adventure/sci-fi, you will probably enjoy it. His other books are not light reading, but they are very good sci-fi. Obviously he's not Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke (who is?) but he's a cut above a lot of what's out there now. I can say that without factoring in TTT at all. Of all the Star Wars EU authors (not including Alan Dean Foster--he is WAY beyond being known for 1 Star Wars novel written twenty years ago!) I would gladly read something by any of those 5 that was not SW-related, based on my reading of their SW work. Allston would be my first choice, but Zahn, Tyers, Stackpole and Hambly would also be good choices. That's based on a straight literary analysis and the styles in which they write. Biased? A little, perhaps. But take Hambly: I don't like COTJ or PoT, I don't think they were good Star Wars, but I can tell that if she were writing something else, I probably would enjoy it.

    Now, if you like "boy-genius saves the world," "monsters invade and hunky hero saves the day...again!" "or evil nonmotivated bad guy wants to take over the world/galaxy/universe" stories, other SW authors probably appealed to you.
  8. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    Actually Zahn came up with the idea of evil smart genius type villains who wanna take over the galaxy. And yes, Lucas created Palpatine, but he was a politcian and really didn't need much of a push to take over the galaxy. Im talking that Zahn created a Lex Luthor type villain who's so perfect it gets boring. So :p Zahn did make his novels comic booky in that sense. The point Im making by hating Zahn is that he makes every one of his character villains too perfect. I mean look at Palpatine or Zsinj, geniuses in their own right but nowhere near as perfect as Thrawn. Which is why I hate Zahn and Thawn and Mara so much. And Mara was a villain at first and she's perfect too. It's sickening at that, ohh well Im done ranting. I like the smart villain the villain who might win but comes up short in the end. And Thrawn despite what you people say wasn't that. He was too perfect. Enough ranting for now, any of you gotta problem with it just remember, it's my opinion.
  9. Darth Pipes Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 1999
    star 5
    Agreed. Zahn portrayed Thrawn as perfect and as the real power behind the Empire. He gave the impression that Palpatine was a smuck who was lucky to be in power. I never went for that crap where Thrawn said he disobeyed the Emperor four times. If he did so even once, he would have been killed. Palpy wouldn't have let Vader disobey him once and he was far more important to the Empire than Thrawn ever could be.
  10. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    Agreed, I hated that, I HATE perfection. Is there something so wrong in being imperfect?
  11. Anakin SkySolo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    Imperial Girl--

    Minor point: Zahn basically took the idea of a "city planet" from Lucas's concept and fleshed it out to what we eventually saw in TPM. The name and the details are his. The idea of a city-covered planet was Lucas's. (Given his string of one-climate planets, it was only logical. And have to wonder if Tatooine came from Dune.) Lucas had the original idea, Zahn developed it.

    Eh...not quite. Lucas took the idea from Isaac Asimov (I believe one of Lucas's proposed names was Jhantor), and I'm sure Zahn and Lucas took some of the details from Asimov as well. Moreover, I'm a tad skeptical that George Lucas took much more than the name from Tim Zahn. He might have, but the man has enough creative genius to figure out a few things about a city-covered planet on his own, with perhaps a bit of help from Trantor...

    I won't claim, by the way, that Asimov's idea of a city-covered planet was original either. I think he took the idea from another author in turn; I just can't recall who, or where I heard that.

    Now, if you like "boy-genius saves the world,"...

    Yes, I saw and enjoyed The Phantom Menace. I read and enjoyed the novel as well.

    ..."monsters invade and hunky hero saves the day...again!"...

    Yes, I read and enjoyed Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers.

    ..."or evil nonmotivated bad guy wants to take over the world/galaxy/universe"...

    Well, yeah, I enjoy the Star Wars movies. What's your point--that Palpatine isn't provided sufficient motivation?

    Oh yes, in case you can't tell, I'm being glib in my last three comments.
  12. Anakin SkySolo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
  13. ImperialGirl Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 10, 2001
    star 3
    Where have I ever said I liked the Phantom Meanace or thought it was well-written? Frankly, if you're over the age of six and liked the whole thing, I'm disturbed. My friends' little cousins liked it, but they're 6, 5, and 3. Star Wars is supposed to have a "child-like" sensibility, not childish. Thank Faranth there's a script doctor for the next one.

    TaB had a lot more than "bug-eyed aliens." We actually had a chance to see Leia trying to deal with the revelation of her father's real idenitity (something that gets glossed over elsewhere) and we see Luke experiencing a love interest with a conflicting philosophy (I wish we'd had more time to hear about Gariel's religion, but she only had one book) and experiencing a failure when he tries to save the Ssi-Ruvi's human servant.

    One thing I will say for TPM, we're finally getting some motivation for Palpatine. Before, we had some hints (corruption in the Senate, the Sith, whoever they were) and now we're getting the full story. The Imperial officers at least had some sense of motivation--Tarkin is maneuvering against the Emperor (particularly in the Radio Drama) Vader is also plotting, and the others are basically the equivalents of mid-level Wehrmarcht, serving their government and promoting "order." Also, if you bring in Cambell and the Hero's Journey, Palaptine is filling a very specific role. While we don't know how he got there, we do know he's more complex than Ming the Merciless. I almost wish Lucas had done all the movies at once to show the entire arc, if he REALLY wanted them to be about Anakin and not Luke. Palpatine was not non-motivated because we knew he had a story, but we hadn't been given all of it. We knew that he had been powerful and charismatic enough to lure Anakin to the dark side, and use him in his plan to take over the galaxy. Finally, we're learning how and possibly why.

    And finally, I still am not seeing how anyone can view Thrawn as 2-D unless their sole other reading experience is limited to franchise fiction and comic books. He's hardly the only major character in fiction to be non-POV. Gatsby? Sherlock Holmes? As someone mentioned elsewhere, Don Quixote? Thrawn is a brilliant commander because if here weren't, he'd be a pretty pathetic threat. Would you prefer a total incompetant whom the good guys could beat without every really being in danger? I know that the Republic is going to win in the end; that doesn't mean I have to be reminded of it every two pages. The villain has to be a BELIEVABLE danger. The Vong might be ugly in every respect, but at least I buy them as a threat to the Republic. After TTT, none of the Bantam villains were convincing at all.

    The real problem here seems to be that some people don't get TTT and therefore get mad because other people do, and take it out on the author, which I find dishonest. I never blamed Arthur C. Clarke when I didn't understand "2001" the first time through, or Frank Herbert if "Dune" is a little tricky on the first reading. Maybe TTT is too much sci-fi for some. It's not nearly as hard as 2001, but it requires more thought than, say, JAT.
  14. Anakin SkySolo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    ImperialGirl--

    Where have I ever said I liked the Phantom Meanace or thought it was well-written? Frankly, if you're over the age of six and liked the whole thing, I'm disturbed.

    I never said that you liked The Phantom Menace. I mentioned The Phantom Menace because (a) it fit your description; (b) I was being glib; and (c) TPM is part of the core Star Wars package--one-sixth of the body of work that will eventually DEFINE the concept of "Star Wars."

    To put it another, to say that I like TPM is rather like saying that I like Star Wars. I find it ironic that a Star Wars fan would slight a storyline--"boy genius saves world"--that is so intrinsic to Star Wars.

    And let's not forget that "boy saves world" is the plot of Episode IV as well. The kid whining about not being able to go the Academy with Biggs saves Yavin IV in the end. So he's 18 or 20 rather than 9 or 15, as Anakin Solo is in Vector Prime. Luke still lacks the street smarts of the nine-year old Anakin Skywalker, or the Jedi training since birth, the benefit of education at the Jedi Academy, and the interstellar adventures of Anakin Solo.

    TaB had a lot more than "bug-eyed aliens."

    I agree. But the book can still be superficially described as "monsters invade and hunky hero saves the day again." That was my point. Superficial descriptions of plots used as a means to slight certain books can cut both ways.

    And with regard to Palpatine: Yes, the guy plays a key role in Campbell's description of the Hero's Journey--but that's completely independent of whether or not he has a motivation beyond a simple desire for power. In the last Star Wars Insider, I think Ian McDiarmid nails down his character precisely. The guy is simply pure evil, with fewer redeeming characteristics than the devil. In many ways, Palpatine is one of simplest characters in Star Wars, and one that's particularly easy to despise. But I wouldn't look for complex motivations from Star Wars' premier villain.

    The real problem here seems to be that some people don't get TTT and therefore get mad because other people do, and take it out on the author, which I find dishonest.

    No, the real problem here is not that people don't "get" the Thrawn Trilogy, but that certain individuals can't accept the fact that some people who have read the Thrawn Trilogy "get it" just fine and still don't like it. The Thrawn Trilogy is a good series (my personal opinion), but it just isn't so complex that people can't grasp it.
  15. Dewlanna Solo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 1999
    star 4
    Ani, A quick point about TPM and AHN hope.
    you said "And let's not forget that "boy saves world" is the plot of Episode IV as well. The kid whining about not being able to go the Academy with Biggs saves Yavin IV in the end. So he's 18 or 20 rather than 9 or 15, as Anakin Solo is in Vector Prime. Luke still lacks the street smarts of the nine-year old Anakin Skywalker, or the Jedi training since birth, the benefit of education at the Jedi Academy, and the interstellar adventures of Anakin Solo.
    "
    There was a big difference tho. In the first place Luke was somewhat experienced in flying. But mainly, Luke listened to the voice of ObiWan and Let the Force guide him.

    Ani just got lucky.
  16. Anakin SkySolo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    Not really. Even at nine, Anakin was a hotshot pilot, almost as skilled as Luke was at 18 or 20, and he learned how to pilot the Naboo starfighter extremely quickly. Don't forget that he was the only human who had ever flown in a pod race. Anakin "saved the day" for the first time in TPM when he won that race with a pod that he built.

    Nor did Anakin didn't just get lucky when he blew up the droid control ship. Recall what Ben said in Episode IV (aboard the Millenium Falcon, when he is talking to Han while Luke is practicing with Ani's lightsaber for the first time):

    In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.

    So Anakin didn't need Ben's voice to guide his shot. He didn't even need to consciously intend the destruction of the droid control ship when he fired the shot (though he knew that was the goal of the attack by the Naboo starfighters). He was still being guided by the Force, just as Luke was. And despite the fact that Luke intended to blow up the Death Star, he still needed the guidance of the Force to do it.

    In the end, the outcome was the same. Both boys relied upon the Force to guide their shots. Neither boy could have successfully blown up the target without the Force guiding them, whether they deliberately intend to blow up their target or not.

    Certainly intention is important. Because of that difference in intent, Luke's action was more consciously heroic. He understood the risks and knew what he was doing, while Anakin was partly just seeking thrills (an important facet of his character).

    So yes, there are important differences in circumstances between the world-saving salvos fired by father and son. But the similarities can't be easily disregarded.
  17. Dewlanna Solo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 1999
    star 4
    AniSS, I'd believe your "Force guided" interpretation of the end of TPM if GL had made it a bit more obvious.
    As it was presented on screen in the movie, Anakin just gets lucky.
    In ANH we hear Ben's voice, we see the comprehension on Luke's face.
    All we get from TPM is Anakin's amazement that he actually hit something.

    ANH made a big impression on the watchers, with the Force guiding Luke to victory.
    TPM misses this feeling. It really misses any Force connection at that point.
    Ani could have been any kid hero in any movie, guided by luck, God, a magic potion, years of playing video games (I've seen movies and read books with all of these sorts of things helping the young hero)
    Luke could only have been in Star Wars ("Use the Force Luke")
  18. Anakin SkySolo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 20, 1999
    star 4
    I disagree completely.

    Throughout the entire film before that point, we are reminded of Anakin's strong connection to the Force. Anakin wins the pod race because he lets the Force guide him (recall Qui-Gon's admonition to him before the race). His strength in the Force is why Qui-Gon chooses him as his new Padawan, and why the issue of his training is so controversial. We are reminded that he is the "Chosen One," with the last reminder from Qui-Gon coming right after the destruction of the droid control ship, as he lays dying. The fact that Anakin has just saved Naboo, however unintentionally, reinforces Qui-Gon's words.

    As I watched the film, I never had any doubt that Anakin's shot was guided by the Force. Sure, it APPEARS lucky. But this is Star Wars, and I've known since 1977 that in Star Wars, there is no such thing as luck.

    EDIT: To expand the last point: George Lucas intends the Star Wars movies to be one cohesive tale--episodic in structure, but one tale nonetheless. What you don't fully understand in one film you can comprehend by picking up clues in another film. Even if you think Anakin is lucky in Episode I, when you hear Obi-Wan in Episode IV, you KNOW that Anakin wasn't lucky--he was guided by the Force. The fact that Luke explicitly relies upon the Force and achieves the same result as "lucky" Anakin further reinforces the notion that the Force guided Anakin's shot as well as Luke's.
  19. Emperor Sebulba Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 11, 2000
    star 1
    Zahn didn't even come up with the name Coruscant. I believe it was first used in the RPG Empire sourcebook. I know it was used frequently in the RPG game(old West End one, not WotC), which was way before Zahns time.
  20. Genghis12 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 1999
    star 6
    Dewlanna...
    "TPM misses this feeling. It really misses any Force connection at that point.
    Ani could have been any kid hero in any movie, guided by luck, God, a magic potion, years of playing video games (I've seen movies and read books with all of these sorts of things helping the young hero)
    Luke could only have been in Star Wars ("Use the Force Luke")"

    TPM doesn't "miss" the feeling, because it is still laying the groundwork. Note, the "special" nature of Anakin is still left as mysterious as the Force is, but is very clearly shown to exist in TPM. Part of the drama of TPM is the fact that Anakin's only believer is Qui-Gon (and Schmi). Not only does Qui-Gon know that the Force is guiding Anakin's life, but that through Anakin, the Force is guiding the entire galaxy - for he is the "Chosen One Who Will Bring Balance to the Force."

    Now, while the fact of whether he actually is or not may be left all the way until Episode III to conclude, it is clearly shown that Anakin is not "any kid in any movie." Anakin is Darth Vader, one of the most special movie characters ever in presence, power and stature. There is absolutely no question that the Force is present in Anakin Skywalker's life.

    Perhaps it's just that TPM was aimed too high above people and that's the reason why a lot of people just "didn't get it."
  21. Genghis12 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 1999
    star 6
    Emperor Sebulba...
    "Zahn didn't even come up with the name Coruscant. I believe it was first used in the RPG Empire sourcebook. I know it was used frequently in the RPG game(old West End one, not WotC), which was way before Zahns time."

    Just so there's no misinformation getting tossed about. The name Coruscant does not appear in any WEG product prior to Zahn's TTT. It is not in their 1989 Imperial Sourcebook, nor is it used with any frequency at all in the old RPG game prior to Zahn.
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